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Letter: Combating climate change should include legal action

We all bear some responsibility for climate change and should share in the resulting costs, but Big Oil is far more responsible, and must also pay a share, this letter writer says.
West Van Seawall Closed web
A storm watcher gets a peek at waves crashing on West Vancouver's Centennial Seawalk, Nov. 15, 2021.

Dear Editor:

Thank you for your recent article on suing Big Oil to help pay for climate costs. Vancouver’s North Shore is already facing climate impacts (wildfire smoke, heat waves, landslides, etc.) and will likely need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to deal with sea level rise. A North Shore News article earlier this year described how the winter legacy of B.C.’s coastal mountains could be “on the brink of collapse.”

Currently, North Shore taxpayers are on the hook for all of these costs. But we believe those most responsible for causing climate change should pay their fair share for the damage. The world’s top 20 polluters are responsible for one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions. These companies have known for decades about the climate harms they are causing, yet they continue to make billions in profits while blocking climate action.

That’s why West Coast Environmental Law and other community organizations are calling on B.C.’s local governments to sue Big Oil – to make polluters pay their fair share of local climate costs.

As your article notes, there is a discrepancy between the results of a province-wide poll that we released showing widespread support for suing fossil fuel companies for climate costs, and a NS News poll showing lower levels of support. These differences could, in part, be due to the wording of the NS News poll question. Your question presumed that recovering funds to help cover increasing North Shore climate costs is not a local issue, while incorrectly implying that the lawsuit is intended to shift all of those costs to fossil fuel companies.

Sue Big Oil advocates for suing the world’s largest oil companies to make them pay their fair share of climate damages – in other words, proportionate to their role in causing global greenhouse gas emissions. We all bear some responsibility for climate change, and taxpayers will pay for many of the resulting costs. However, Big Oil is far more responsible, and must also pay a share.

For those concerned that a lawsuit is a pipe dream, recall the successful lawsuits against Big Tobacco, Big Pharma, and asbestos. Suing Big Oil can help change business practices, mitigate climate change, and build safe and healthy communities.

We are thrilled that the City of Vancouver has voted in support of suing Big Oil, and we are hopeful that other B.C. municipalities, including those on the North Shore, will join this historic initiative.

Fiona Koza
Vancouver

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